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Olympics to secure Tokyo with facial recognition

Tokyo will have the Olympic Games in 2020, but security is an issue. Not because there would be too much threat, far from it, but because there is not enough space. Japan in general and Tokyo in particular are notoriously closed (if you thought that we lived in the Netherlands you had to go there) and the locations of the Olympic Games simply do not have enough room for security checks and the queues that control yield. That must be more efficient, not least because it can be appalling in Tokyo in the summer.

Head of security Tsuyoshi Iwashita has therefore proposed to use facial recognition for the control of more than 300,000 people: athletes, coaches, employees and the press. In fact, anyone who does not just watch athletes will receive a special identification card with a chip that can automatically verify his identity. It seems that the system still works with a fixed camera ‘post’ where you have to hold an ID and then look at your face.

The system works

The system is installed in cooperation with NEC. The tech company does not do that for the first time. In 2016, the Rio games also tested technology and meanwhile the technology is already being used at various locations such as airports and the ‘pile’ that scans your face also looks like the automatic passport control at Schiphol. Hopefully it will be a bit faster …

According to Iwashita, the system has a 99.7 percent chance of instantly recognizing a face, regardless of nationality or length. Other systems sometimes have problems with those two aspects. During a demonstration for example, the system also recognized people in a wheelchair. With this system, Tokyo solves the space problem nicely, but it is a lot of extra work. Not only must all that identification be produced, they also have to arrange for more than 300,000 people to take photographs that are representative enough to make a system like this safe. That will be quite an administrative task.

The biggest risk is of course that the system goes mid-playing. Whether there is a plan B for that circumstance was not said during the press conference where the system was announced, but let’s hope it will not be necessary with how hot it can be in Tokyo. In those kind of temperatures, you do not want anyone to wait, certainly not athletes who have yet to perform. If they are thinking of introducing summer time specifically for the Games then you know it’s a thing.

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